"Essential workers" are not treated as if they are valuable

I have spent the bulk of the Covid-19 pandemic so far working for the dining room in an indendendent living facility downtown. I am a recent transplant to Seattle, and I originally came here for grad school a little over a year ago.

I live alone in a basement apartment, and since quarantine began I have lost a lot of social outlets in school (most of my cohort has moved back "home,"

with classes moving online), at work (the residents have had to spend most of this time in their rooms, and services like dining were only open for a limited window) and at home (I barely know anyone in town, and we are discouraged from socializing).

While many people lost their jobs, I, as an "essential employee," have been struggling through on minimum wage. The 600 dollar a week unemployment benefit would have constituted a pay raise for me. Due to a loss of rental income, my employer has cut back on hours so severely that I am now forced to subsist on partial unemployment.

We are regularly "thanked" for our "heroic" contributions. However, while I crossed over from part time to full time employee over the summer, HR was reluctant to offer me benefits. My director replied to questions about hazard pay by saying we are hiring more staff. A week after we were told that we can volunteer to be laid off, two new hires started.

Meanwhile, almost daily, we are tasked with adapting to new protocols for dealing with Covid and related lockdowns, despite a short staff and a lack of resources. We are all overworked, underpaid, stressed out and frustrated, but are at the mercy of a job market which does not value us or take our skills seriously. My employer is not unusual or unique in this respect; many, probably most people in this line of work have simply been unemployed for all this time. However, the experience makes you feel very expendable and unimportant